With the walls closing in on his coaching career at Ole Miss, Houston Nutt lashed out at Auburn Monday during a speech to the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham.
Using the defense of oversigning as a thinly-veiled pretense, Nutt seemed to intimate to the group that a late commitment to Auburn last February by a Mississippi high school recruit might indicate a lack of NCAA rules compliance.
“Gene Chizik came in and stole my man Jermaine Whitehead,” Nutt said during a speech today at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham. “I asked Gene, ‘Now Gene, you didn’t even have a home visit.’ It must be nice to hold up that crystal ball. Hold up a crystal ball and get one of my best players.”
Whitehead, a Mississippi native whose development this season has been praised by Chizik, was a four-star recruit last winter. At one time, Whitehead said he was committed to Mississippi State.
Nutt, who is often criticized for oversigning, said Whitehead was committed to Ole Miss for a month-and-a-half up to the final week before Signing Day.
“He took my hand and said, ‘Coach Nutt, I’m coming to play for you,’” Nutt said. “I took his word!”
Whitehead visited Auburn for its Big Cat weekend in 2010, for its game against Georgia in the fall and several other times, as well, including the final weekend before Signing Day.
“Jermaine didn’t go on Friday. He left Saturday,” Nutt said. “We stayed in his house until 10 o’clock on Friday night, the last weekend before Signing Day saying, ‘I know he’s not going to Auburn now.’ Wake up, starting to get nervous because Monday and Tuesday before Signing Day and now he doesn’t call. He won’t answer my call.”
Finally, Whitehead told Nutt he was going to sign with Auburn. Nutt described the conversation this way:
“Jermaine: ‘Coach, I gotta go to Auburn.’”
“Why? Why would you go to Auburn? They already won their title. They already have the crystal ball. They don’t need you. I need you.”
“Coach, it’s business.”
“Business? You shook my hand, man! You said you were committed to me!”
“I know, Coach. I’m sorry.”
Does that sound like an argument for oversigning or an all-out assault on the integrity of the Auburn coaching staff?
And why did Nutt single out Whitehead?
Obviously losing a top in-state recruit was a bitter pill, but Nutt’s choice of words in describing Whitehead’s flip probably wasn’t a coincidence.
Four months after Whitehead signed with Auburn, he linked the below photo of a new Camaro in an entry to his @J2Whitehead Twitter account.
Whitehead later Tweeted that his parents had bought him the vehicle as a graduation gift, though the current Auburn Tiger later deleted the photo of the car he had previously posted.
Whitehead has since been officially cited as the owner of a 2011 Camaro in a July 21, 2011, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, speeding ticket.
In a Pickens County, Alabama, speeding ticket a year earlier, Whitehead was cited as the owner of a 1999 Dodge Stratus.
Is it unreasonable to think that Nutt may have dropped the “Coach, it’s business” business into his speech given what we now know about Whitehead’s Camaro?
(Nutt questioning a recruit’s late, about-face? Please)
“Hours” before Whitehead signed with Auburn on Feb. 2, 2011, Steve Robertson of Scout.com reported:
“My final three are going to be Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn,” said Jermaine. “I am not ready to say who it’s going to be, but I have made my decision and I feel good about everything.”
Whitehead will sign and fax his national letter of intent in the morning and then join teammates, fans and media at a 1 PM press conference at Amanda Elzy High School.
In the end there can only be one, but Jermaine has found some positive things about all of his finalists.
Ole Miss: - “Ole Miss has a great coaching staff and great facilities. A lot of my boys are going up there, so it would be good to be able to play with them.”
Mississippi State: - “Mississippi State is a young team with a lot of talent. I believe they just need the right spark to get them playing at the highest level. They have a bright future.”
Auburn: - “The coaches at Auburn carry a swagger and you can tell they get the most out of all of their players. They have a great campus and great facilities.”
If you take the time to watch Whitehead’s interviews and read his comments throughout his recruitment, he clearly had a handle on the process. His most familiar refrain leading up to his Auburn sign was trying to find immediate playing time while still being in a winning environment. As he’s already on the field for Auburn, which is off to a considerably better start than Ole Miss and Mississippi State, it appears he made the right call - for now.
While it isn’t unreasonable to have questions about Whitehead’s Camaro, considering Nutt has failed to translate his own recent experience as beneficiary of a late, about-face by a top-rated recruit into not getting manhandled by Vandy, you can’t blame any recruit for eschewing Nutt’s peepa heppin bidness.
Brooks is on Facebook and Twitter.